No receiver in the 2023 NFL Draft class had a higher drop rate than Green Bay Packers fifth-round draft pick Dontayvion Wicks.
According to Pro Football Focus and Sports Info Solutions, Wicks dropped nine passes in 2022. According to PFF, among all receivers in the draft class who were targeted at least 40 times, Wicks’ drop rate of 23.1 percent was the worst. No other receiver was even at 20 percent.
According to SIS, of its top 60 prospects at receiver, Wicks’ catchable-catch rate of 68 percent also was the worst. (For sake of comparison, second-round pick Jayden Reed was at 88 percent and seventh-round pick Grant DuBose was 84 percent.)
Jason Vrable, the Packers’ receivers coach and passing game coordinator, wasn’t concerned. It’s not as if Wicks has bad hands. His flaws can be cured through the three C’s of catching passes, concentration and coaching.
“We’ve talked about that,” Vrable said on Thursday. “Throughout all college or NFL, guys have some drops. Tay’s had years where he’s had more drops than you want. We’ve got to catch the ball. That’s our job.
“With our communication with him, ‘Well, why did you drop the ball?’ A lot of his drops, when you really slow-mo them, were really trying to turn and run before he caught it. Maybe your team’s not winning as much, so you feel like you’ve got to do extra when it’s typically not the case. It’s just play with your great fundamentals and then let the plays happen, as opposed to you try to pull your eyes to the ball and make a touchdown score when you’ve just got to catch the ball first. Slow him down.”
The slowing-him-down process will begin with the start of organized team activities on Monday – the first of 12 scheduled practices over four weeks in May and June.
“I tell him, ‘Play with great fundamentals like you did with a lot of the other catches, right? Play within who you are; the best version of yourself.’ I said, ‘You can’t be Superman out there and try to win the game every single play.’ … Your work ethic will take care of that. Eventually, you’ll have less of those drops if you have that mentality to work.”
Wicks, who returned to Virginia for graduation, impressed Vrable during his predraft visit. His intelligence and demeanor gave Vrable a good feeling that he will be able to return to form and potentially provide some instant impact to a receiver corps filled with equal amounts talent and question marks.
In 2021, Wicks caught 57 passes for 1,203 yards (21.1 average) with nine touchdowns vs. five drops (8.1 percent). In 2022, Wicks caught 30 passes for 430 yards (14.3 average) with two touchdowns vs. the aforementioned nine drops.
“I think he carries himself with a very professional demeanor,” Vrable said. “I think he’s a true pro right away. I haven’t had to talk to him about how to study or go about it because he already had that mentality about him. Maybe it was the school at Virginia or their staff, but I felt it from here. When he left, I think everybody in our building was like, ‘Yep, I think that guy fits the Green Bay way of what we want.’”